Life in this world is a very important reality, but it is not the ultimate reality... True growth in this world always calls for a dying to my own sinfulness, individualism and selfishness so that I might come closer to my true self in relationship to all others and to God. Thus, in the end, life and death are not diametrically opposed. Life involves a dying and dying is a way of life.
The white man’s civilization with its inhuman economic competition and rugged individualism has produced millions of physical and mental wrecks. It has produced enough vices to fill Dante’s hell. Nine-tenths of the people who reach forty are suffering from shattered nerves.
In the grossly distorted individualism of today, we are incapable of imagining the selflessly disinterested hero. This may not matter; we may think we can do without him. But what is also means is that we are incapable of imagining the selflessly disinterested hero in ourselves who would give himself to a cause.
We need to recognize that both the society and the individual are essential to a morality which we can use in the next century. If we could enter the next century with a wider recognition of the balance - and get away form either collectivistic excesses or the celebration of radical individualism - I think we’d be better for it.
Many Americans draw the boundaries of their self-interest very narrowly. Our culture's emphasis on individualism and competition reinforces an attitude of isolation and impotence toward global problems.
“Self-government” is primarily a personal morality in America, not a political philosophy... Thus does our individualism reduce social problems, always, to the level of private morality, to things outside the scope of legislation.
This autonomy of man, this attempt of the Ego to understand itself out of itself, is the lie concerning man which we call sin. The truth about man is that his ground is not in himself but in God -- that his essence is not in self sufficient reason but in the Word, in the challenge of God, in responsibility, not in self-sufficiency. The true being of man is realized when he bases himself upon God's Word. Faith is then not an impossibility or a salto mortale [mortal leap], but that which is truly natural; and the real salto mortale (a mortal leap indeed!) is just the assertion of autonomy, self-sufficiency, God-likeness. [It is] through this usurped independence [that] man separates himself from God, and at the same time isolates himself from his fellows. Individualism is the necessary consequence of rational autonomy, just as love is the necessary consequence of faith.
Three typical historic philosophies of education were considered from this point of view. The Platonic was found to have an ideal formally quite similar to that stated, but which was compromised in its working out by making a class rather than an individual the social unit. The so-called individualism of the eighteenth- century enlightenment was found to involve the notion of a society as broad as humanity, of whose progress the individual was to be the organ. But it lacked any agency for securing the development of its ideal as was evidenced in its falling back upon Nature. The institutional idealistic philosophies of the nineteenth century supplied this lack by making the national state the agency, but in so doing narrowed the conception of the social aim to those who were members of the same political unit, and reintroduced the idea of the subordination of the individual to the institution.
Except in a few well-publicized instances (enough to lend credence to the iconography painted on the walls of the media), the rigorous practice of rugged individualism usually leads to poverty, ostracism and disgrace. The rugged individualist is too often mistaken for the misfit, the maverick, the spoilsport, the sore thumb.
On the far side of the subjective, on this side of the objective, on the narrow ridge where I and Thou meet, there is the realm of 'between'. This reality, whose disclosure has begun in our time, shows the way, leading beyond individualism and collectivism and collectivism, for the life of future generations. Here the genuine third alternative is indicated, the knowledge of which will help to bring about the genuine person again and to establish genuine community.
If a blending of individualism and of cooperative participation is a prerequisite to a democratic solution of the problems of a society of free men, it must also be noted that an atmosphere of freedom is required if these problems are to be met constructively and as they arise.
It is for man to establish the reign of liberty in the midst of the world of the given. To gain the supreme victory, it is necessary, for one thing, that by and through their natural differentiation men and women unequivocally affirm their brotherhood.
There are many kinds of success in life worth having. It is exceedingly interesting and attractive to be a successful business man, or railroad man, or farmer, or a successful lawyer or doctor; or a writer, or a President, or a ranchman, or the colonel of a fighting regiment, or to kill grizzly bears and lions. But for unflagging interest and enjoyment, a household of children, if things go reasonably well, certainly makes all other forms of success and achievement lose their importance by comparison. It may be true that he travels farthest who travels alone; but the goal thus reached is not worth reaching. And as for a life deliberately devoted to pleasure as an end — why, the greatest happiness is the happiness that comes as a by-product of striving to do what must be done, even though sorrow is met in the doing. There is a bit of homely philosophy, quoted by Squire Bill Widener, of Widener's Valley, Virginia, which sums up one's duty in life: Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
To a Desolate Friend - O friend, like some cold wind to-day Your message came, and chilled the light; Your house so dark, and mine so bright,— I could not weep, I could not pray! My wife and I had kissed at morn, My children’s lips were full of song; O friend, it seemed such cruel wrong, My life so full, and yours forlorn! We slept last night clasped hand in hand, Secure and calm—and never knew How fared the lonely hours with you, What time those dying lips you fanned. We dreamed of love, and did not see The shadow pass across our dream; We heard the murmur of a stream, Not death’s for it ran bright and free. And in the dark her gentle soul Passed out, but oh! we knew it not! My babe slept fast within her cot, While yours woke to the slow bell’s toll. She paused a moment,—who can tell?— Before our windows, but we lay So deep in sleep she went away, And only smiled a sad farewell! It would be like her; well we know How oft she waked while others slept— She never woke us when she wept, It would be like her thus to go! Ah, friend! you let her stray too far Within the shadow-haunted wood, Where deep thoughts never understood Breathe on us and like anguish are. One day within that gloom there shone A heavenly dawn, and with wide eyes She saw God’s city crown the skies, Since when she hasted to be gone. Too much you yielded to her grace; Renouncing self, she thus became An angel with a human name, And angels coveted her face. Earth’s door you set so wide, alack She saw God’s gardens, and she went A moment forth to look; she meant No wrong, but oh! she came not back! Dear friend, what can I say or sing, But this, that she is happy there? We will not grudge those gardens fair Where her light feet are wandering. The child at play is ignorant Of tedious hours; the years for you To her are moments: and you too Will join her ere she feels your want. The path she wends we cannot track: And yet some instinct makes us know Hers is the joy, and ours the woe,— We dare not wish her to come back!
As long as he fears or remembers insecurity, man is a competitive animal. Groups, classes, nations and races similarly insecure compete as covetously as their constituent individuals, and more violently, knowing less law and having less protection; Nature calls all living things to the fray.